Friday, May 30, 2008

Draft Possibilities

When the Blueland Chronicle was posting videos and profiles about leading prospects in the 2008 NHL Draft a few months back, we neglected to mention anything about two players that look like they'll be among the top five picks, and thus quite available to our beloved Thrashers.

One player we didn't mention was Zach Bogosian, who might be an even better defensive proposition than Drew Doughty. If the Kings take Doughty I'd wager we go after Mr. Bogosian: he seems to be exactly the sort of tough, solid blue-liner that we desperately need. Some say he's comparable to Mike Green, some say he's more of a Braydon Coburn type. Ah, Braydon Coburn...

We didn't mention Russian winger Nikita Filatov, who looks set to be one of the highest-ranking picks. I realize that the top priority for the Thrashers is defense, but it's a shame that we don't have the luxury of being able to grab this fellow (a luxury that comes only with a solid defense). Think about it: a high-scoring, defensively responsible Russian forward who could play alongside Kovy. You can't say that Kovalchuk and Filatov wouldn't have chemistry (or, for that matter, that he and Slava Kozlov wouldn't have chemistry); Filtatov could be to Kovy as Semin is to Ovechkin. Or even as Backstrom is to Ovechkin. If Kovalchuk is never going to get a Marc Savard-like center, then he needs a good goal-scoring deputy on right wing. Why not a fellow Russian? You know they'd hit it off. He wouldn't have the usual problems that Russian players have gelling with the rest of the team at first, as he's already fluent in English (and French). He seems something of an intellectual, which is always an interesting trait to combine with goal-scoring brilliance.

But I do think it is the case that we just don't have the luxury of NOT choosing a defenseman like Bogosian, or if he's available, Drew Doughty. Sigh. Kovy and Filatov would've made a great Russian Two (or, if Kozlov comes back to life, Russian Three). From what I read, it seems like Doughty is an offensive defenseman, a Mike Green or Brian Campbell or Andrei Markov type, while Bogosian is more a rock 'em/ sock 'em tough guy of the sort beloved by Don Cherry.

I say we go with Bogosian, because he'd repair the gaping hole left by the horrible Braydon Coburn trade, and because I think we already HAVE a young offensive defenseman in Toby Enstrom. He needs to shoot more, because he has a fine shot, but I'm pretty sure that over time Enstrom will become one of the league's highest-scoring defensemen. If the Thrashers keep him and solid Havelid and eventually add a hard-nosed dude like Zach Bogosian, our defensive problems might very well be solved.

But part of me wants to sign Filatov to complement Kovy and then do everything in our power to get Brooks Orpik this summer. Because Orpik could fill the roll of a Coburn-type player as well, I think. If we DO get Bogosian, then we have to work extra hard (which means offering extra money) to sign Ryan Malone.

10 Reasons Ron Wilson Should Come to Atlanta

1. A nine-letter word that begins and ends in "K." Wilson has never worked with a goal-scorer of this stature before; Bondra in his Washington Capitals heyday might come close, but I think even he falls short of our glorious Czar.

2. Toby Enstrom. He had an insanely impressive first year and he is set to become one of the league's finest defensemen. Case in point: in his rookie year Toby racked up the same number of points as Wade Redden (more on him later).

3. Goalies. Ronnie loves to challenge and develop goalies. With a few tweaks here and there he'll lead Kari to Nabokov-like results. He'll likely achieve this by frightening our Kari with the prospect of an Ondrej Pavelec takeover, goading him into greatness. This is known as the "light a fire under the goalie's ass strategy."

4. Eric Perrin. He seems tailor-made for Ron Wilson. He's fast, versatile, excellent on the penalty kill, and he fights for the puck. Ron would love him.

5. The Thrashers are GOING to land a top defenseman to play alongside Toby (and Brooks Orpik!) next year. Mark Streit, Brian Campbell, Wade Redden--all awesome, all available. We have to sign ONE of them, surely. As well as Brooks Orpik, of course.

6. Ron is a USA Hockey guy. Don Waddell is a USA Hockey guy. Atlanta is located in the USA.

7. Speaking of Atlanta, the Thrashers are a newer sunbelt franchise in a non-traditional market. Ron Wilson has ONLY ever worked with these sorts of teams: Anaheim, Washington, San Jose...

8. Related to Reason 7: He hates the Canadian hockey press. The Thrashers are WELL below the Canadian border and our star player if a Russian that frightens many of our hockey comrades to the north.

9. Atlanta is near his home in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

10. Atlanta is a much more exciting place than San Jose (though you are near San Francisco there), Anaheim (though you are near L.A.), and Washington (I've lived there, I can attest; if you're not a lobbyist or an intern DC is a slightly sterile place to live).

Please, Ron. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Three Thoughts on the Stanley Cup

1. If I was forced at gunpoint to announce my choice for the Most Irritating Player in the NHL Award, I would without hesitation say, "I'm wearing a tight-fitting cast that the physical therapists insist will evaporate if I don't drench it in water from time to time. Oh, Tomas Holmstrom."

Seriously, the man has nothing in the way of skill or finesse or speed or goal-scoring acumen or ice vision or puck-handling ability or even genuine rock 'em/ sock 'em bombast. All he does is just stand in front of the goal and wait for his more talented line-mates to get the puck to him so he can bat it in the knowledge that no one will be able to knock him away from the goal because he's such a big fucking lug. That's all he is: big as fuck. NOT a goal-scorer or power forward or expert puck-handler. Not a tough big dude enforcer like Georges Laraque or Donald Brashear. And not even a highly developed pest like Sean Avery or Jarkko Ruutu. Just big as fuck.

2. Between periods last night (what a great game. seriously!) the NBC folk and the NHL folk decided to put Alexander Ovechkin in whore's makeup and parade him naked in front of their prime-time cameras. Mike Milbury asked Ovie who was hotter: himself or Sidney Crosby. Then he asked Ovie to imagine himself and Sidney Crosby mud-wrestling. Think of the children, NBC!

This series is good for the League because one half of their poster boy duo (Sidney Crosby, for those who came in late) is playing in it. Since Poster Boy #1 on prime-time NBC playing hockey, why not drag in Poster Boy #2 for an awkward and pointless conversation in which the old commentator dudes had the Non-Tact to prattle on endlessly about Sidney Crosby and ask nary a question about Ovie and the Ruskies' recent Gold Medal. I'm happy that the League is drawing more viewers, and if Crosby's and Ovechkin's job descriptions have to be expanded to include Teen Idol, I reckon it's worth it. Still, though, a proud and jealous part of my soul is pissed off about Ovechkin and Crosby being made into Bettman-packaged celebrities while Ilya Kovalchuk remains serially neglected by the establishment hockey press. Sid and Ovie are players of fantastic (and very VERY different) gifts, and they deserve their fame. But can the Chronicle petition the hockey press to drop this hysterical schoolgirl tone they affect when talking about Crosby/Ovie or interviewing them? Either that, I say, or make Kovalchuk an almost-equal celebrity but of a different sort. If Crosby is the all-Canadian, English-speaking, squeaky-clean teen idol and Ovechkin is the over-the-top, shaggy, sweaty Russo-Tasmanian Devil, give Kovalchuk a role in hockey fans' collective imagination as the mysterious but passionate gangster, the private eye or hitman who leans against a wall smoking a cigarette and staring everyone down. The romantic and ambiguous hero/anti-hero, dark and enigmatic but exuberant when he scores goals or leads his team to victory. A slightly crazy genius who's not completely in control of his rage on the ice...

3. The Atlanta Thrashers MUST SIGN BROOKS ORPIK! ARE YOU WATCHING BROOKS ORPIK IN THIS SERIES? SIGN HIM SIGN HIM SIGN HIM. SIGN BROOKS ORPIK! IF YOU'RE AN EXECUTIVE WHO WORKS FOR THE THRASHERS I COMMAND YOU TO SIGN BROOKS ORPIK. If the Thrashers signed Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik they'd never lose another game for the rest of Kovy's career.

Coach's Corner, May 28th


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NHL TV Ratings on the rise in US


Television ratings for the Stanley Cup final are soaring in the United States but declining in Canada.

The Detroit Red Wings second victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night drew fewer CBC viewers than the series opener. An average of 1.869 million people watched Game 2 in Canada, which was down from the 2.11 million that took in Game 1 last Saturday.

Those numbers are also down from last year's final between Ottawa and Anaheim. An average of 2.378 million people watched Game 2 of that series. The story was much better in the U.S., where the second game of the Pittsburgh-Detroit series was the most-watched Stanley Cup final cable telecast in six years. The game earned a 1.9 national rating on Versus and averaged over 2.5 million viewers. Game 1 garnered a 1.8 rating.

The latest mark was the best for an NHL game on Versus, topping the series opener, and was second to Lance Armstrong's final ride in the 2005 Tour de France for the highest-rated telecast in the network's history (2.1).

The combination of Games 1 and 2 made this the highest-rated and most-watched opening two games of the final since Detroit faced Carolina in 2002. Versus' combined ratings went up 273 per cent from last year and 181 per cent from the Carolina-Edmonton series in 2006.

NBC will show the remainder of the Stanley Cup final in the U.S., beginning with Game 3 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

Per TSN, Rangers must pay Holik $3.5 million...

It was determined that Bobby Holik will be paid a $3.5 million signing bonus from the New York Rangers. The Rags were stating that because of the lockout, they didn't have to pay his signing bonus because he did not play. Well, Bobby won out and he will get his money.

I kind of agree with the Rangers on this one. It is true Holik didn't play because of the lockout. The funny thing to me is, we all know Bobby has not played since the lockout (thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal!).

Congratulations Bobby. We all know you deserve it.

For The Blueland Chronicle, I'm Big Shooter.

Monday, May 26, 2008

P.S. That's Why We Call Him the Czar

Russian Lessons, Parts I and II

Ovie calls his mom, makes Kovy scream with him:

Nabokov seems to be the grown-up of the group;

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Coach's Corner, May 24th

And don't miss Grapes and Melrose together for ESPN (Glad to see ESPNBA set aside OVER two minutes to devote to hockey):

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Czar Still a Badass, Reuters Confirms

From the Guardian. The Guardian!

It's good to know that someone is keeping punk alive.

The first Russian to be taken number one in the NHL draft when the Thrashers made him the top pick in 2001, Kovalchuk has grown to become one of the league's most dangerous marksmen, scoring 254 goals in six seasons.

But the world championships did not start out as well as he hoped.

Team mate Alexander Ovechkin grabbed the spotlight with a team-best six goals while Kovalchuk's petulance earned him two game misconducts and a suspension. He had to sit in the stands for Friday's semi-final win over Finland.

However, Kovalchuk redeemed himself on Sunday, tying the game at 4-4 late in the third period and then blasting the winner at 2:42 into overtime.

"We just told each other to play all the way to the end and whatever happens, happens," said Kovalchuk.

"Two goals (down), it is always tough to come back but then we talked to each other in the locker room and we said, 'Hey we've got nothing to lose.'"

You have to love that note of badass fatalism. I wouldn't be surprised if Kovy burns cigarettes out on his hand for fun. Impales a Latvian center with his stick in one game, guillotines a Belorussian defenseman for looking at him funny in another. Sits out a semi-final, biding his time. Takes the suspensions and game misconduct penalties because he KNOWS fate would make him the hero in the Gold Medal game. From some other newspaper:

"God was on our side a little more than them," Kovalchuk said. "In overtime, they take that penalty—that's the new rules. I don't know if it's good or it's bad but it worked for us."


I also loved this:

Afterward, Alex Ovechkin skated around kissing his new gold medal over and over while Kovalchuk grabbed a television camera and screamed into it.

Kovalchuk to Semin (overheard by ice-side Blueland Chronicle reporter): "Today is good day for Mother Russia, Other Alex, but today even better day for Ilya Kovalchuk. I make Mother Russia gold again and eat Canadian children. Tomorrow I think I call Dany Heatley and hold phone up to flushing toilet. Better yet I have Nicole call Rooms to Go and install silver toilet in house; I name him Dany."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Let The Coaching Search Begin...

With the sacking of Ron Wilson earlier, it appears that everyone who was going to get fired... got fired. I know that is what Waddell said he was waiting for in hiring a coach. He wanted to see what candidates would be available in the off season. I know we are not 100% sure if ole Donnie boy is still going to be the GM (what a mess. seriously.). For now let's all assume he is the one hiring the coach. Here are a few candidates as I see them:

  • Ron Wilson - The front runner here at the Chronicle for the job. I have always been a fan of Ron. He is funny, uncharacteristic, and sometimes a little sarcastic. That attitude has made him popular with some players, and very unpopular with others. He can be a little hard on players at times, but you can't argue with his record. I don't put much stock in what happened in the playoffs in San Jose. That is not his fault. One plus is he is a USA hockey guy and so is DW. The big knock against him I see is he might be a little too similar to Hartley for us to hire him. Sometimes you want a big change. We will see.
  • Joel Quenneville - Another great option. I like him almost as much as Wilson. He was a finalist for my own personal Jack Adams award this year. With all the injuries the Avs had this year, there is no way they should have made the playoffs. Not only did they make the playoffs but won a round! I was SHOCKED when he was fired. Big mistake. Some say he can't win in the playoffs, like Wilson, but again I don't buy it. He had great teams in St. Louis and did a great job in Denver. And he has a splendid mustache.
  • Pat Quinn - Dying to get back into hockey. And a guy with Atlanta connections (old Flame). He could coach or GM. Again, the whole Don Waddell situation would have to play out before we go the Quinn route I would think. Pat did well in Vancouver, and was coach and GM with the Leafs. He might be a little too old school for today. He has not coached in the league since the lockout.
  • Pat Burns - Another good coach. Lots of options for us. He has battled cancer but seems to be doing fine now. Two time Jack Adams winner. Two time mustache of the year winner. Great mustache. Or did he shave it? Haven't seen him in a while. If he shaved it, then I say remove his name from the list.

Those are really the "Big Name" guys. This post could go on forever, and I have to get back to work. We could pluck someone from the minors or Junior. Like a Dale Hunter, John Anderson Randy Cunningworth and on and on and on.

It looks like Atlanta, San Jose, Colorado, Florida, Ottawa and Toronto all need new a coach. That's six teams looking for a coach. I have named 7 quality coaches. As you can see, the talent pool for coaches is pretty rich (don't forget one of these teams will probably hire Bob Hartley).

Waddell said a coach would be hired before the draft. Well, that is in a few weeks. And we might be getting a new GM as well! Rational people would see the need to get the GM before the coach. Atlanta Spirit needs to get their act together before this off season (most important ever) becomes a total cluster f#$k.

For The Blueland Chronicle, I'm Big Shooter.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New Thrashers GM?

Essential reading from Custance:

Interesting stuff this afternoon from Atlanta Spirit co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. He addressed the media about Billy Knight’s resignation but I showed up to talk some hockey...

I asked him if Don Waddell’s role would change and he said they are considering it. The ownership really respects Don’s ability to manage an organization and Gearon said Waddell’s role could expand in their organization in that capacity...

That could mean a promotion for Waddell within the Atlanta Spirit and a new general manager for the Thrashers, although Gearon didn’t go that far. But it sounds like Gearon and the Atlanta Spirit are determined to bring in more support on the hockey side of things.

What does this mean? Waddell gets upgraded to a newly invented CEO or President position while we seek out a new GM? I think that might be an excellent development. Meanwhile, the Blueland Chronicle commands the Atlanta Spirit to hire Ron Wilson as the new Thrashers coach.

Come to Atlanta, Ronnie!

You know you want to.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Jim Schoenfeld

Now that the playoffs are over (for me anyway) I'd like to throw another name out there for our new coach. Not gonna happen, but Jim Schoenfeld is exactly what we need. I'm an old Caps fan that loves Schony's attitude. Here are a few clips for those who don't know him:

From his playing days:

From his coaching days with the Devils (an ABSOLUTE classic):

And from the Caps vs Pens series a while back. This one is so good it takes three clips:

Playoffs SUCK...

I said earlier that we here at The Chronicle do not hide from our predictions. That is true when you go 6 for 8 in the first round. And true when you go 1 for 4 in the second round. Ouch! Evil has defeated good. I hate the Stars. And now our friend Morty also hates them. Welcome to the club. Pool hours are 8-11, swim at own risk.

I think the Pens will dispatch the Flyers in 6. I refuse to pick a winner in the West. Who do you like better, Osama or Saddam? That is what it is like for me.

With that said, here is a preview of the Western Finals:


A Thought

Anyone who bears a grudge against Marian Hossa for leaving Atlanta is a fool. Anyone who wants him (and by extension the Penguins) to blow it in the playoffs specifically because he left Atlanta is an even more foolish fool. That is all. As you were, comrades. 

In the Wee Small Hours

...the playoffs end. My, what an epic heartbreaker. I'm exhausted; can't imagine how the players feel. 

I couldn't care less who wins between Detroit and Dallas, and I'm not a huge Flyers fan, so I suppose I'm cheering for the Penguins at this point. 

Oh and, don't forget, I hate the Stars. 

Sunday, May 4, 2008

World Championship Stuff

I'm still glued to the playoffs (the Stars-Sharks series, mostly), but know that we here at the Blueland Chronicle are cheering on Patrick Kane and Team USA in the IIHF World Championship.

For my part, I'm also hoping that the Czar and his underlings--Ovechkin, Semin, Federov, etc.--do well. Here's an article about their desire for revenge against Canada. If the Sharks lose, you can expect Evgeni Nabokov to be in the net for Team Russia very soon indeed.

Friday, May 2, 2008